HAMPTON ROADS, Va. -- “If it can happen to me, it can happen to you,” warns former FBI and CIA Director William Webster in a video message that urges older people and their loved ones to be wary of elder fraud schemes, according to the FBI.
They say the 98-year-old retired judge and his wife, Lynda, were prospective marks in a Jamaican lottery scam in 2014 when an unsolicited caller informed Webster he won a sweepstakes.
The FBI said to collect his winnings — a car and millions of dollars — Webster was told he needed to pay $50,000.
When the couple declined repeatedly, the caller became abusive and threatening. The Websters called the FBI and later worked with special agents in the Washington Field Office to nab the scammer, who is now serving time in prison.
They say the Websters are among millions of older Americans targeted each year in elder fraud schemes like bogus lottery and romance scams. Fraudsters string along victims with promises of love or riches in exchange for cash advances or assistance moving illegal funds. Losses from these types of scams reach into the hundreds of millions each year and are increasing as the U.S. population ages.
The Websters’ case was featured on the FBI's website in 2019 and garnered national attention, according to the FBI.
They said the couple hopes the new public service announcement (PSA) will remind older people, their families and caregivers that they need to maintain their guard against sophisticated schemes.
“Since we have become involved with this issue, we’ve heard sad stories of millions of dollars stolen, lives threatened and even suicides,” Lynda Webster said. “My husband has been targeted for years. And when one scammer threatened our lives, we knew we had to act.”
“It’s in every family’s interest to stay vigilant,” Lynda said. “As loved ones, we must be lovingly watchful of the well-being of the elderly in myriad ways. As seniors’ mental acuity declines, their judgment erodes, and it’s the family’s responsibility to protect them from the people who will prey upon them.”
If you believe you or someone you know may have been a victim of elder fraud, contact your local FBI field office or submit a tip online. You can also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, or IC3.